Yi Wang was a diabolical person. If I might say so myself, he was the type that refused to see others living well if he could not.
After he was tied and presented before us, he turned to Xiao Huang and knelt in front of him, “Your Majesty, this official has forsaken your trust. It is no longer possible for me to help you recover the Great Chen. From now on, we can only count on you. After this official dies, recovering the Great Chen will be your responsibility!”
Go and die! Die! Die! Die!
I froze while nestling against Feng Zhao Wen’s chest. I carefully raised my head to look at him, only to see him going green in the face. He swept his sharp eyes over the prisoners before settling it on Xiao Huang’s face.
Xiao Huang gave him a casual smile, as though Feng Zhao Wen had known that he was the deposed emperor from the very beginning. I buried my head against Feng Zhao Wen’s chest in frustration.
Yi Wang then turned to me with an expression full of hope, “General Guang Wu sacrificed her body to appease the enemy. Even if you do not have a good ending, your merit will be remembered by us. Please accept this king’s bow!”
I poked my head out from Feng Zhao Wen’s chest and watched as he solemnly gave me a great bow. Then, he got dragged away while the little miss sobbed in the background.
The night wind blew gently as the remaining troops looked at Xiao Huang like a tiger eyeing it’s prey. It was as though they were only waiting for Feng Zhao Wen’s order to pounce on him. I turned my head to look at him. He gave me a careless smile, “Jiejie, those three years was more than enough for me.” I almost cried when I hear that.
I clutched onto Feng Zhao Wen’s chest and argued, “Your Majesty, he is not the deposed emperor. He is my little brother, my father’s illegitimate child, An Le! He is really my brother!”
His Majesty slowly swept his phoenix eyes over my face, his lips curling, “Really? From how zhen looks at it, this brother of yours does not resemble you at all.”
I was so nervous I could not breathe….. Rumors had it that not a single ruler was left alive after Feng Zhao Wen took over their kingdom. Right now, I was depending completely on his affection for me.
A ruler’s love had never been a reliable thing, but I could only depend on that to beg for Xiao Huang’s life.
“He- he was born from a different mother, of course we didn’t look alike! Your Majesty had met the late emperor of the Great Chen before, how can you believe what Yi Wang said?”
“Oh. Since he is the empress’ little brother, he should return to An Residence to properly recuperate!”
Two guards escorted Xiao Huang and the little miss and galloped away on their horses. I peeked out at their disappearing silhouette, “Actually, I, too should have been sent back to An Residence with them!”
“En? Your brother—–“
“To the palace! To the palace it is! I naturally should go back to the palace with Your Majesty!” I said, with a mournful face.
Everything was back to normal in the palace. E Huang was beyond happy when she saw me. She kept chirping away like a little bird and kept bringing up about how anxious the emperor was after I got kidnapped; about how he could not eat or rest. The girl sure loved to exaggerate. I was riding with him on the way back, and he was as strong and alert as usual. He did not look worn-out at all. He did not look like ‘someone who did not sleep’ at all.
Feng Zhao Wen took off his robe and ordered Tian Bing Qing to bring some medicine. After he finished putting on medicine on the wound, Tian Bing Qing turned to me with a face full of admiration, “This must be your doing! Other than you, no one else would dare to bite His Majesty!”
We were in the 8th month, so the clothes he wore were thin.
“T-That seal…..” I originally wanted to conjure up excuses for myself, but then, I realized that nothing I comes up with could shrug off the blame.
Tian Bing Qing dragged me into Zhong Hua Palace’s tea-brewing room. He looked so fed up with me, “Those rebels sent a letter saying that you told them the seal is in His Majesty’s hand. His Majesty summoned Uncle Tong in the middle of the night and gathered the palace’s best craftsmen. They worked day and night restlessly to replicate the seal. How did you repay him? You did not trust him at all! Even a little dog knows to wag his tail to the person who rears him!”
My face turned red and I was all coy when I re-entered Zhong Hua Hall. I stopped in front of the emperor who was reading memorials, before pouring him tea and grinding him ink. I was really well-behaved.
He originally flipped the pages casually, but after a while, his pace became slower and slower. In the end, he slapped shut the memorial and raised his head to look at me. He was frowning and his phoenix eyes were dark.
I was having an internal conflict and in the end, decided that it was better to pull out the root of the hidden trouble first. I knelt with a loud thud and quickly admitted fault, “Your Majesty, I shouldn’t have hidden this from you. An Le….. He is indeed the deposed emperor of the Great Chen…… But, he is also my little brother….”
His Majesty did not say a word and simply looked at me.
I carefully tried to argue my case, “I grew up with him. He was an idiot and was barely involved in politics. His real mother was a maid. It was not easy for him to grow up the way he did…..”
Unfortunately, His Majesty seemed to lack sympathy.
I blabbered on, stuttering from the anxiety. My arguments were lacking and gradually became more and more irrational. I could only scratch my head, not knowing what to do.
It was then that the emperor finally opened his golden mouth, “The Marquis of An?”
I stupidly looked at him, thinking I heard wrong.
He appeared impatient. Under the lantern’s light, I finally saw the redness in his eyes. Seemed like E Huang and Tian Bing Qing were not lying; he hadn’t been resting properly.
I felt ashamed with myself.
“Since he is your brother, he can only be your brother from now on. Zhen will appoint him as the Marquis of An and bestow him the An Residence. Do you agree with that?”
I was happy beyond words; the big stone that had been weighing my heart disappeared just like that. I got up and ran up to him, giving him a few kisses on the lips, “I knew Your Majesty is a good person!”
After I kissed him enough, His Majesty put on a straight face and reprimanded me, “Kneel on! Is that the only fault that you committed?”
I could only obediently stepped backwards and kneeled again.
He picked up a couple of books from behind the desk and tossed them in front of me, “Have you read these books before?”
I picked them up and discovered that they were actually guides on how to become a virtuous woman. I was raised by men so I never really had the opportunity to be taught about things like these.
I shook my head and simply tossed them aside. I climbed up to him and flatteringly massaged his thighs, “Your Majesty, these books are pointless.”
He did not reject my advance and simply leaned backwards to rest comfortably on the chair. He swallowed a little before he spoke, “Zhen thinks it is time for empress to copy these books.”
It had been many years since I was last punished to copy books. Even the person who ordered the punishment had changed. It kind of gave me a feeling of lost.
I swallowed and gently protested, “Things like copying books only suits brainless people, like those who have hard time remembering things.”
His Majesty swept his phoenix eyes over my face in hostility, “People with brains wouldn’t do things behind their husbands’ backs. People with brains would trust their husbands instead of suspecting them. Zhen thinks it is better for empress to start copying these books about womanly virtue. Find a couple of momos to help teach you rules. Maybe then, you will learn to trust zhen more.”
(TN: Momo are the older palace maids.)
My face turned red with the way he called himself my ‘husband’. It seemed to be a little early for him to be calling himself that.
The emperor’s voice was bitter, “You have always lacked restrains and refused to listen to other people’s advice. Father-in-law has passed away, so now, zhen, on behalf of him, will seek to reform the empress. Do you have any objection, empress?”
I stared at him with large eyes, unable to speak.
…. Would my objection be of any use? What exactly had I done to offend him? Why was he so adamant to make things hard for me?
I hugged his legs while sobbing, tears and snot and all, “Your Majesty, I didn’t do it on purpose! I was just casually saying things, not really implying anything. How could I know that Yi Wang’s aide would infer that the seal was in your hand?”
“En? From how zhen looks at it, the empress needs to copy these books 10 times for the message to sink through.”
I stared at those thick books before turning to him and continuing to hug his legs while crying, “Your Majesty, I really didn’t do it on purpose…… I did not mean to bite you! Why don’t you bite me back?” If he did, the copying book matter would be settled. 10 times?! Might as well take my own life.
I rolled my sleeve and handed my arm over….. I could not feel pain anyway.
With a straight-face, he leaned down and kissed my arm. I shrank back in fear; I could see the yearning and desire very clearly in his eyes.
Perhaps, me retreating away had angered him. He narrowed his eyes, seemingly pondering a little before saying, “In zhen’s opinion, the empress is a tough subject to reform. Perhaps 20 times? You should find a couple more momos to help you learn etiquette. You can prepare for our marriage in the palace, alright?”
Lucky we only had to prepare for our marriage once.
I had to copy books until I had dark under-eyes; and all these while, I had to be tortured by those momos to boot. I had to learn the proper way to sleep, to sit and even to walk….. I was used to simply stomping over everything without restrain, so everything naturally did not sit well with me. Every time I was about to get upset, those momos would unanimously kneel and said, “We deserve to die, please do not be upset, Your Ladyship!”
……….. What? Only His Majesty could get upset?
His Majesty was like a smiling tiger. When he had free time, he would read his memorials while sitting next to me, pleasantly watching my dilemma.
On the sixth day, I could not accept this anymore and went and hugged His Majesty who had just returned from the morning court. I was crying really pitifully, “Your Majesty, I was wrong! I was wrong! Please send these momos away and let them enjoy their days in peace. I am torturing them like this, if anything happens to them, I will not be able to live with myself!”
Those momos, on the other hand, were busy trying to stop me, “Your Ladyship, you are losing conduct!”
I buried myself into His Majesty’s chest and wrapped my arms around his waist, refusing to let go no matter what. His Majesty laughed lightly, “All of you can retreat.”
Those momos quickly retreated away.
He mumbled into my head, “Have you realized your fault, now?”
I looked at him at a loss.
I had recognized my fault long ago, it was him who refused to buy my remorse.
He knocked me in the head fiercely before bitterly speaking, “You have a head made of wood and a heart made of stone! You are my empress, yet other than your Uncle Tong and your make-shift brother, you refused to trust anyone else!”
I looked at him stupidly.
There was anger on his face as he pulled my ears and mercilessly bit my cheek, “Am I not worthy of your trust? When things happen, you become prejudiced. Can’t you trust zhen for once?”